Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is it permissable for a Woman to breastfeed in Shul?

by Rabbi Moshe Yossef BA (Hons)

It appears that the question of breastfeeding in Shul has not been discussed in the Rabbinic "Responsa", for the simple reason that it was never considered a question!

Breastfeeding in Shul is problematic for the following reasons:

1) Breastfeeding in any public place breaches the boundaries of modesty (tzniut). This would apply even in an exclusively all-female environment. It is true that with caution, it is possible to nurse a baby without uncovering one-self in a way that is at all visible. Even under these circumstances, however, the other issues which will be listed still remain problematic.

2) Breastfeeding in Shul contravenes the laws relating to the preservation of the sanctity of a Shul. These laws are dealt with in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Siman 151. You will see there that, for example, even drinking is forbidden in Shul (according to the Biur Halacha, this includes even water). Of course, drinking from a cup does not exposing oneself at all.

3) Breastfeeding in Shul, even when in the most careful and modest way possible, is likely to distract others from having concentration (kavanah) in their prayers. (This issue could arguably be considered an extension of (2) above).

Furthermore, since there is no obligation for a woman to attend Shul in the first place, there are no grounds to apply leniencies in this ruling. This is all the more so since the taking of a young minor to Shul is in itself forbidden on the grounds of their disturbing others from their prayer (by way of their crying etc) - this issue is well documented in Mishna Brura as the well as in Rabbinic Responsa.

In light of the above considerations, there is no permission (heter) in relation to this issue. Be'ezrat Hashem your child will grow up healthy and strong and make his/her own way to Shul, in time to come.


Anonymous said...

This is all the more so since the taking of a young minor to Shul is in itself forbidden on the grounds of their disturbing others from their prayer (by way of their crying etc)[space]

If this is "the grounds" upon which it is forbidden, then I can think of many other things that need to be forbidden in shul (including many adults, excessively long speeches by the Rabbi, excessively long mi-sheberachs, too many breaks in the tefillah waiting for people to catch up, etc). :-)


Lady-Light said...

I disagree. Women sit in the ezrat nashim, not in the men's section when last seen.

Men do not generally go into the women's section and therefore would not be "distracted" by a woman discretely breastfeeding her baby in shul.

She could sit in the back of the ezrat nashim or in an unobtrusive spot. Women will continue to daven with kavanah and will not be distracted by this.

As far as a minor in shul, I do agree that the parents are responsible for the behavior of their young child; they should not allow him/her to run around unsupervised nor climb onto the bimah in the middle of the tefilot (which some small children of prominent shul members do in my Chabad, unfortunately).

It seems as if it's always the Orthodox kids who are the most wild, disrespectful and unruly in shul and elsewhere. Maybe that is the issue which should be addressed.

Anonymous said...

This is the siliest crock of shit I have read in a long time. Am I to understand there are some old bastards who are so horny and frustrated that they couldn't concentrate on their davening if a woman was discretely letting her infant suckle on her perky luscious nipples. Are these old mamzerim so twisted that the thought of those full zoftig lactating breasts oozing warm tasty mother's milk drives them into a frenzy of jealousy and arousal? Let the old bastards masturbate under their tzitzis. They already do anyway.

Very truly yours,
Rabbi Moshe Rabeynu, PhD.

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